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The digital civil rights group claims the church is being overly aggressive in asserting its trademark of the word ‘Mormon.’
A dating site that tries to connect Mormon singles with one another has encountered legal resistance from a surprising source: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The business arm of the Mormon church has filed a lawsuit to prevent the dating site from using the name Mormon Match. The church is attempting to assert its trademark over the name, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation has recently jumped in to defend the website’s founder, insisting that the church is being inordinately aggressive in its intellectual property claims.
The case began last month when Intellectual Reserve Inc., the LDS church’s holding company, filed suit in the federal district court of Southern Texas against Mormon Match’s founder Jonathan Eller. Utah-based Intellectual Reserve claims trademarks on several terms related to the church, including “Mormon,” “Book of Mormon,” “Mormon.org,” “Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” and “The Mormon Church” among others.
But in an amicus brief filed with the court, the EFF argues that “Mormon” is simply too broad a term to be claimed this way. Attorneys for the digital civil liberties group, say it would be like Taco Bell suing Taco Cabana over the rights to the word “taco.”
“Cases such as this one, where the affirmative defense of fair use is so clear from the outset, can and should be dismissed at the earliest possible stage of litigation,” the EFF’s lawyers wrote, urging the judge to throw out the case before allowing more time and money to be spent on further court proceedings.
The EFF said Eller’s use of Mormon is a textbook example of fair-usage.
“The name of this service simply describes what it’s doing – matching up Mormons,” said Corynne McSherry, EFF’s intellectual property director, in a written statement. “Trademarks are supposed to be used to protect from unfair competition, not to stifle a small business or to control language.”
Eller, whose site is still in a pre-registration mode and still hasn’t officially launched, has filed a countersuit of his own against Intellectual Reserve. The next hearing in this case is scheduled for Aug. 8.
Tim Sampson is a reporter who focused on the technology, business, and politics beats. He's also an established comedy writer, with work on Comedy Central and in The Onion and ClickHole.